C’mon Irene! How Hurricane Season Can Snarl Operations


Hurricane season 2011 is in full swing! The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, with a peak from mid-August through early October. Predictions called for a very active year, and that has come to pass so far. This is already the third most active year on record; the latest storm, Hurricane Irene, is the ninth of the season! She is also this year’s strongest storm, and her effects have already been felt in much of the Caribbean.

Whenever a weather system is active in the tropics, JetBlue’s System Operations Center evaluates the conditions to determine whether it is safe to continue operations to the affected airports. In Irene’s case, operations were suspended to most of the airports in that region to ensure the safety of our Customers and Crewmembers.

We work proactively to get in front of storms, positioning our Crewmembers and our planes strategically to minimize the impact to our operations. We also get ahead of the storm’s path by offering our Customers waivers for change/cancel fees to rebook.

Image courtesy of gsfc on Flickr

Once the storm has passed, we confirm that each airport is ready to accept flights again – anything from flooding to equipment damage can keep an airport closed for a day or more after the weather is once again sunny and calm. Although most of our service to those islands resumes, a few more flights might be cancelled a day or two later because of flooded airports and/or damage.

Whenever possible, when it’s safe to operate again we add extra flights to those airports to help accommodate Customers who were scheduled to travel on the cancelled flights. With this storm in particular, we’ve added extra sections in Turks & Caicos, Santiago, and Nassau, Bahamas.

Irene’s path will next take aim for the Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas islands. Not only has the storm strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane, but the forecast calls for Irene to become a Category 3 storm with winds in excess of 110 mph. At Providenciales, Turks & Caicos the airport was closed a day early to batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm. Flight operations have been suspended in anticipation of the weather impact in the Bahamas as well as Providenciales.

With such destructive winds, we ask our Customers and Crewmembers in those areas to stay safe at home or in a hurricane shelter as the storm passes!

Further down the road, we’re watching to see what Irene may have in store on the East Coast of the U.S. At this time we don’t anticipate any major flight disruptions as the storm moves close to the Carolinas’ coast, but what’s left of the storm as it tracks further north may give us gusty and rainy conditions for our operations in the Northeast this weekend. We will stay a step ahead of the weather to ensure our Customers get as much advance notice as possible when our flight schedule needs to be changed.

You’re not flying to/from the Caribbean, though, and your flight is still delayed. Why, you ask? Most of our flights originate in different cities than the one you might be flying from. So you’re in Oakland and wondering why your flight is cancelled or delayed when you are safely out of the hurricane’s reach, but that flight might be scheduled to fly from Ponce, Puerto Rico to New York’s JFK before it goes to Oakland to give you a ride home and ends up snagged as a result.

Be sure to check the status of your flight before heading to the airport.